How to Play Like Magnus Carlsen
Or at least passably well

This blog happened for a couple of reasons.

1) I hadn’t written any chess in a while, and was growing stagnant. I burned myself out during a surge of activity for the book I’ve been writing about patterns in the Bronstein Gambit, but it’s time to get back to it — at a different project for a while.

2) Its title is a favorite joke. Chess instruction material titled Beat (Almost) Everybody at Chess or How to Crush Your Chess Opponents (both Amazon titles), or Winning with This Variation of That Opening can’t deliver. Neither can I help you to play like Magnus Carlsen — for that matter, neither could Carlsen (probably) — but the fine print “Or at least passably well” is a reasonable aspiration.

The great chess teacher Cecil Purdy said mastery depends on using inactive force and examining all the threatening moves, but in order to play chess passably well, we have to recognize the unreality of the opponent’s unreal threats.

When chessplayers see an enemy threat, they tend to over-react. Defend! Trench in! Repel boarders!

To play passably well, the player has to notice the enemy’s schemes, and determine when he doesn’t have to do anything about them. It’s like getting a free move — chessplayers are never so comfortable as when they can move as they wish, and an opponent’s unreal threatening move allows that. (This also means that when the player is considering a threatening move of his own, he has to consider first ‘what if my opponent ignores it?’.)

I’m using Carlsen games to illustrate this vitally-important but overlooked (I think strong players take this skill for granted when they omit it from their writings) principle because 1) Carlsen is a popular reigning champion, and 2) his games against non-grandmaster opposition are in circulation. Unreal threatening moves are mistakes made by lesser players — there won’t be many (or any) examples found in Carlsen’s latest games; games between grandmasters don’t demonstrate how to take advantage of club players’ mistakes — identifying the types of club players and showing how to defeat them is what made Euwe’s Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur so valuable.

About me

10294267_10152633315037853_8389904484470950967_nI’m Frisco Del Rosario, a chess teacher and writer from San Mateo, Calif. I’ve authored two books (Amazon seller ID: cattekin), edited three magazines, contributed a chess column to two newspaper chains, and examiner dot com still thinks I’m its San Francisco Chess Examiner. I was the national chess journalist of the year in 2005, and a San Jose Mercury News teacher of the week the year before.

My USCF rating peaked at 2144 in 1993, and one of the dumbest notions I ever had was that 56 rating points needed to earn the National Master title would just fall into my lap, no more study required. I know I’m a better player than that now — when I look back at what I’ve learned in 20+ years, it’s shocking to see that I reached 2100 through overconfidence, luck, and a pathological relationship with losing.

I’ve won the championship of the Kolty Chess Club (Campbell, Calif.) two times — winning your local club championship is within reach by playing passably well using Purdy’s definition.

I work as a programmer for a San Francisco telecommunications company, and I’m a devoted basketball and baseball fan.


This is the White Paper WordPress theme, with chess content managed by the RPB Chessboard plug-in.

For game editing and entry, I use ExaChess for Macintosh. Unfortunately, I think ExaChess’ developer has abandoned the project or life, because he hasn’t answered by support emails for years.